By Huang Bizhi, Yang Guorong, Yuan Xiping and Liu Tianliang
(Yunnan Beef cattle & Pasture Research Center, Xiaoshao, Kunming, 650212)
Beef industry in the southwest of China is a very important component in the whole beef industry in China, though far behind the predominance of those in the northern and eastern coastal area comparing in both breeding scale and technology, still performing its prominent role that can not be substituted. The beef industry in China is still at the beginning stage of development, which has only developed recently with lower productive level. The development of beef industry in the southwest of China is restricted with geographical circumstance and the way of lag-behind production, most of which are practiced in traditional grazing form by individual farmers, resulting with, of cause, a very low productivity and commercial output. Although China has already become the third largest beef producing country next to the United States and Brazil, its total beef output only shares less than 9% in total of that in the world. The beef consumption per person in China is only 4.5 kilograms, which is one-fourth of the beef consumption in the world in average. Most of the beef produced is of lower grade and inferior quality. And the further beef processing can't satisfy the actual requirement.
With the development on the western region in China and the adjustment of agriculture industrial structure, the livestock industry has been playing an important role in the agriculture. In Yunnan, the output of livestock industry has taken up 32% of the total agriculture output, especially in the village, 50% of cash income of farmers is from livestock production. Beef industry has performed importantly as a new rural industry in the mountainous area in the west of China.
With the rapid development of beef industry in China, the distribution of beef industry region has also been transferred from grazing land to the agriculture area, which is an unrevised trend. As the policy of environment protection for water shed of rivers is implemented in the southwest region, it requires to return the grazing land to forest and grassland. As a result of this, two million hectares of grazing land on mountain slope area over 20°have returned to forest and grassland in the region. Therefore, it is unavoidable that the beef production has to transfer from the traditional grazing land to the basin cropping area, performing a kind of model of based on thousands of small-scaled raising performance hold by individual families with a middle- scaled breeding paddock and feedlot supported.
Because of particularity grazing land resource and relatively slow development of beef industry, the productivity of beef industry in the whole southwest region is very low comparing that of in the north and east of China with a lot of problems existed in the beef industry in the southwest including the south region in China. The problems are known as, firstly, unreliable breeding system, which is resulted in blind cross breeding improvement with poor reproductive rate and insufficient supply of breeding stock；secondly, unreasonable ration formulation with lower feed and meat conversion rate；thirdly, serious parasite disease and heavy pressure of disease control due to the long border with the neighboring countries；Fourthly, the scale of beef processing cannot match up with the beef producing basis and finally, the long distance transportation without proper fresh keeping technology causing the lower commercial rate. Though in recent years the government has paid much attention to the development of beef industry and large amount of foreign currency has been spent in importing quality beef breeding cattle, which has extensively promoted the development of beef industry in the southwest region, there are still many aspects to be followed up in accordance with the particularity required in beef industry, especially on the beef breeding improvement, breeding program and application for the tropical zone and the construction of disease controlling system. With the considerations on construction of development for beef industry system in the southwest China, especially with the practical situation in Yunnan province, it is included some rough idea in this paper for the benefit of comments and suggestions to be given from the experts of all sorts.
2. Situation of beef industry development in the southwest
Viewing on Guangxi minority autonomous region, Guizhou, Sichuan, Yunnan three provinces and Chongqing municipality directly under the jurisdiction of central government in the southwest, these five area all located in the transitional part from the mountains to the plains on Yangtze River water shed classified the third land type in the west with total land size of 135,660,000 hectares in which there are2,387,000 hectares of grass land and with 34,551,000 heads of beef cattle on hand in total, being well known for its abundant resources on beef cattle breeds and forage and holding the balance in the beef industry development in China.. Currently in China, there is no beef cattle breed that adapts well in the southern region selected. The breed practiced in the region mostly is the cross breeding of the native Yellow breed with imported ones such as the cross breeding of Simmental, Shorthorn, Angus etc. Moreover, the beef industry is not developed evenly in those five regions. For example, Guangxi is one of the developed regions in the west that keeps the best dairy buffalo herds in China with plenty of fresh sugar cane top as forage, which is also the forage guarantee for its beef industry；Guizhou has emphasized on pig development for a long time. Though it has about 6,000,000 head of cattle in total number, the body size of the beef cattle is too small that restricts the development of beef industry there. With the pasture and livestock improvement in Eighth-five-year and the Ninth-five-year development program, the ruminant animal production there has developed quickly with total livestock output taking up to more than one-third of the total agriculture output； Yunnan is abundant in natural resources with diversified climates and varieties of plant and animal species. The total number of beef cattle on hand in Yunnan is over 8,500,000 heads ranking the second of the five regions in the southwest. Because of the weather is ideal for various crops, it promotes the production of domestic animal. Especially Yunnan owns the only pure Brahman herd in China, which provides the transition genetic material for new beef breeding program in tropical zone where there is plentiful resource for development of livestock industry； The livestock development in Chongqing and Sichuan is with similarity that is based on pig development. The development of beef industry has only started in resent years with the ecology construction and the improvement of livestock and pasture characterized by the quick development of beef industry in the west of Sichuan.
Speaking of the development of beef industry in those five regions in the southwest, though each region has its own advantages and limits, it is not evenly developed. In general, with the restricting factors of the relevant breeding technology and good breed, beef industry has not performed as a predominance industry.
3. Potential and direction of beef cattle development in the southwest region
In recent years, the beef output produced in China has continuously kept a strong increasing tendency at a speed about 20% of beef output increased annually and with over 5,000,000 tons of beef produced, ranking the third in the world. The beef industry in many places in China has become an important agriculture industry arisen newly. But if viewing on the point of market economic, the beef industry in China actually remains in a very backward condition, for the poor competitive capability of its beef product in the international market, of which the exporting quantity is less than 1% of that traded in the international market. What worries it more is that though the beef output in China is keeping increased each year, the development of the relevant technology is lag behind, causing a lot of important technical criteria in beef industry far behind the developed countries, clearly shown in net meat produced in average per head on number of cattle on hand per year in China only 46.98kg compared that of 80 to 90kg in developed countries and in average carcass weight only 147kg per head in China compared with the average level of 205kg per head in the world.
Therefore, in the long run, with the gradual amalgamation of domestic and international market, the challenges that the beef industry in China has to be faced should be well noticed.
Fortunately, it is clearly realized that there is a large difference between China and developed countries in beef industry, which also brings the opportunity for the development of beef industry. The successful experience has been achieved in the development of Luxi Yellow Cattle resource in Shandong province and the development of Qingchuan Cattle in Shanxi province, where the quality and the benefit of beef cattle farms have been improved through the different scaled farm establishment with reasonable distribution, change of rational feeding formulation and management as well as good combination of advanced technology from foreign country with labor resources in China.
Located in karst zone, the southwest is one of the most poverty areas and the most condensed poverty population in China, where ecological environment is poor with sensitive soil erosion and less farming land available, facing double difficulties in social and economic development. On one hand, economic development has to be developed, but on the other hand, the development will lead to the further damage of the environment again. However, it has been proved that development of pasture and ruminant animal in the karst zone can benefit both development of livestock industry and environment protection, which can not only reserve the soil and water, protecting natural environment, but also promote the development of livestock industry, increasing income of farmers.
Moreover, there are plentiful resources of grassland with sufficient rainfall and heat radiation in the southwest karst zone. According to the relevant study, the karst zone covers eight provinces and cities with 780,000,000 mu grassland in which 640,000,000 mu are available for livestock. The southwest region is located on the headwaters of many largest rivers in China with thin soil layer and sensitive to easy soil erosion. However, considering all those points of superiority and inferiority, livestock development based on grassland should be promoted in accordance with the local condition to avoid the limiting factors.
It is shown form the study of relevant experts that development of grass industry will benefit in increasing the supply of livestock product and reducing the grain food consumption. At present, the main livestock industry in China is based on pig farming which is a type of grain consuming performance with one-third of total grain output per year in China consumed. If the one-third of pig farming was replaced by ruminant animal, it could save more than 200,000,000 mu of cropping land. Therefore, the development of livestock and pasture should be promoted, for it not only improve the diet structure of local residents, but also reduce the pressure on grains required by animals.
From the above, it is clearly that the development of beef industry in the southwest has to put its advantages and limitations into the consideration so as make fully utilization of the plentiful heat radiation and other natural resources, producing high quality forage for condensed livestock performance on the limited grassland with the breed or cross breed selected under the local conditions.
4. The considerations on beef development system in the southwest China
There are more than 50 beef cattle breeds in the world, in which some are with middle or small body size of precocity like Hereford, Shorthorn and Angus etc., others are with large body size like Charolais and Limousin from France, Qiana from Italy, Gelbvich from Germany, Simmental and Brown Swiss from Switzerland zebu breed as Brahman from Australia etc. Almost all the excellent beef breeds can be found in China.
Meanwhile, it is also noticed by the relevant experts that with the continuous blind introduction of the quality beef cattle breed from foreign countries, the good quality domestic pure breed of beef cattle are at the stage of dying out. There are varieties of Yellow cattle breeds resources in China with beef performance, though not specially selected for beef production purpose. What is required is to introduce cross breeding to improve the precocity while maintain the palatability and tenderness of the quality local beef rather than blind grade breeding. The quality beef cattle breed suitable in the southwest region can only be selected through the several targeted cross breeding combinations and controlled breeding directions under the natural condition in different regions with a long term efforts contributed. However, there must be a suitable system for the construction and sustainable development of beef industry in the south and southwest regions in China.
4．1．Establishment of kernel cow breeding herds
The key factor for the development of beef industry in the south and southwest regions is the numbers of breeding cow herd s. Although many best quality breeding bulls have been introduced in China, the result of the improvement is still unsatisfied. It is mainly due to the reason that the breeding cow herds are irregular with the poor management, making it impossible to perform well with the introduced genes To ensure the numbers of breeding cows on hand, it needs an urgent establishment of the chain for beef industry in the southwest, forming a strong system of breeding cattle, breeding cows with calves, feed-lot, slaughtering and processing and marketing for both fresh and frozen beef product. The beef industry in south and southwest region can only be guarantied to develop in a normal and correct way through the interactive efforts made among all levels of governments, relevant associations, relevant departments and consumers and maintaining the normal sharing of profits among all the relevant beef product producing parts.
4.2. Extension and application of suitable beef cattle bree
As it is known to all that Brahman is the elite breed for tropical and subtropical zone in the world, of which the application brings a great development in the United States and Australia, making a great change in beef industry which can never be seen before in the south region of the United States. Australia also benefits a lot from it, which can be seen easily from the total numbers of beef cattle on hand 23,000,000 heads with 70% of which is of Brahman blood in 2005. In Brazil, with application of Brahman, several Brazil Zebu breeds have been selected, which makes Brazil, replaced Australia in 2003, becoming one of the largest beef exporting countries in the world. From the international successful experience, it is sure that adoption of correct beef cattle breed is the precondition for the development of beef industry in the tropical and subtropical zone. Only with beef cattle breed that adapted the environment can livestock industry be promoted. In the breeding program for new breed of beef cattle in the tropical and subtropical zone in south and southwest region in China, therefore, Brahman should be strongly encouraged to be used as an interbreeding, then followed with quality beef performing bulls as final paternal genetic introduction to form a new beef breed with good beef performance, tolerance to heat and ticks resistance.
4.3. Making fully utilization of the natural resources available
To solve the unbalanced feed supply for the whole year around, one of the best ways is to make great quantities of hay in the harvesting season of grass or agriculture crops, of which the on-ground silage is the most economical one to make. The second way is to grow large quantity of quality pasture in the cropping fields, which is at interval time in winter season to keep the balance for feed supply in winter and spring seasons. There is plenty rainfall in the southwest regions. Taking Yunnan for instance, there are better conditions in temperature and light, with which quality forage and feed can be produced on the 6,000,000 mu of cropping land at interval in winter season in Yunnan to meet the requirement of feed shortage in the whole year around, if it is well used.
4.4. Disease control and safety of the meat product
Because the southwest regions are bordered with the Southeast Asian countries which are known as animal epidemic disease regions, it makes a lot of difficult for animal disease control, especially with the growth of frontier trading with these countries. With the development of scaled breeding implemented, the disease control will be an important task. Regular disease control measurements should be included aiming at the regional epidemic disease so as to ensure the animal health. Meanwhile, as China has already joined the World Trade Organization, the quality and safety of the food should be emphasizes and the rules of the game should be followed if the quality beef product produced locally is supposed to compete in the international market.
4.5. Animal management
“Good breed without good management” is the common situation in beef raising practice at present. Especially the management of calves after weaning is with the most critical significance. Weaners should be supplemented with concentrates in accordance with their body weight, importantly at age of six month if the body weight is lower than 150kg. Otherwise, it will have affect on the performance of later growth. Weaners should be well drenched for parasites in one month from weaning to reduce the affect to the health of weaners caused by parasites.
4.6. Benefiting and introducing the technology for new breed beef cattle breeding from abroad
Nowadays, many new breed of beef cattle well adapted to the different environment have been bred out in different countries under their natural conditions through continuous cross breeding program in many years. For instance, in Germany, a new breed cattle with milk and beef performance named Fleckvieh has been selected out based on Simmental, which has performed well in the cool area. And again, in Brazil, a new breed, known as Girolando performed well on milk and beef producing under the tropical and subtropical condition, has been bred through a long term cross breeding program with Gir and Holstein-Friesian. The average milk yield of Girolando is over 6 tons per year and with the meat quality equivalent to that of beef cattle. Introducing of Girolando to the tropical and subtropical zone in the southwest region in China will not only fill the blank of milk supply in the tropical area in China but also make a great improvement on the present situation of milk supply in the tropical zone, which is supplied by dairy buffalo with low milk yield.
The construction of beef production system in the southwest is still at the beginning phase. There are many aspects worth discussing from breed selection to raising form and management. In terms of analyzing the construction for the whole beef industry system, the followings must be emphasized：
5.1. Emphasis must be put on the breeding and selection for new beef cattle breed；The bull used for the breeding program should be meet the requirement of quick growth with the tolerance to heat and ticks.
5.2. According to the practical situation of less land available in the south and southwest region, it needs to change the traditional grazing performance into the concentrated feeding system to thoroughly use the quality forage produced from cropping land at winter interval so as to keep the balance of feed supply for the whole year.
5.3. It is necessary to introduce the new beef cattle breed adapted to the south and southwest region in China from abroad and extend the new beef cattle breed selected in domestic in the last 20 years suitable for tropical and subtropical zone in the region.